Problems Associated with the Determination of Carbon Dioxide by Infrared Absorbtion

I apologize again for the lack of a post for the last two weeks. I have been very busy and have had too much to write, and so haven’t written anything.

The title above refers to a study I was trying to find this morning as I researched a question raised to me by a reader of my Capnography for Paramedics blog.

I spent most of the morning learning about the perfusion/ventilation mismatch in patients with severe respiratory disease and other factors that can alter the end tidal capnography value.

While I love being a paramedic, my primary love as been for the patients as humans, for the people aspect of the job. I have considered myself servicable at best on the science. I have been quite surprised by the passion and attention that the new technology capnography has inspired in me. Any time there are more chemical signs on a page that words I understand, then I feel I am treading on unfamiliar territory.

Life is full of surprises. The older I get the more interested in life’s strange offerings I seem to become, and the more I wish to live fully.

Lately I have been consumed by a number of topics — Capnography, Pain Management, Poker, Fitness, American Idol (Soul Patrol!), World Cup Soccer, Improving My Spanish, the Red Sox, as well as trying to be a good man for my girlfriend and a good influence on her two young children.

With all of this going on, I have somewhat neglected my writing, which often has seemed to be (misguided as it is) my only purpose in life.

A couple weeks ago I got some bad news about one of my oldest friends who has just been diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer that has spread at least to some lymph nodes and involves an ominous tumor that will require major radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation she has already started. The chemo begins this week. The prognosis is not known.

I traveled this weekend out to visit her and her family in the Southwest. I have never had such a close friend with cancer. My view of cancer is largely shaped by my experiences as a paramedic, taking patients by ambulance for radiation therapy or taking them into hospice care.

I was glad, but somewhat shocked to find her looking healthy and strong and working as normal. It was good to see her and to see that she has a good support network among family and friends in her community as well as health benefits (which while not perfect are better than the years she went without insurance).

I sat with her and her family in their back yard that looked out over the desert and, with her son (now in his 30’s, I’ve known him since he was 10) drank Techate with lime and salt, as we all talked about life and music and the beauty of the afternoon and then early evening.

The vista of the open sky with mountains far in the distance and desert birds and a jack rabbit and cactus and trucks along the distant highway was really quite spectacular. It was over 100 degrees, but it was a dry heat and we had a small fan keeping a breeze on us in the times when the desert was calm, and we wore sunscreen and hats and had a good supply of cold beer and limes.

Flying home, while glad that I had gone, I felt a little like I was leaving the Gulf Coast with Hurricane Katrina brewing in the gulf, not yet visible to the naked eye, but out there on the radar, headed toward shore.

What will happen? Will the cancer swirl in for a direct devestating hit? Will it deal a hard, but recoverable blow? Or will it miraculously go away with nothing more than a rainstorm leaving everything and everyone standing as they were? Prayers answered.

Coming back on the plane, I took my novel manuscript out and tried to work on it. I made some progress, but my view of the story and the words on the page aren’t quite in line yet. I have to keep at it.

What do I want most from life? To be a great a writer? To leave my stories? To be a great paramedic? To make a difference in people’s lives? To be a good man and a true friend? To always do what’s right?

This weekend we listened to Gram Parsons, the late great early country rock pioneer, and author of some of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. He died at a young age, and members of his band stole his body and coffin and drove him out to the Joshua Tree Desert where they set his coffin ablaze.

We watched the sun setting. The desert sky turned orange.

Gram Parsons sang:

“In my hour of darkness
in my time of need
Oh, Lord, grant me vision
Oh Lord, grant me speed.”

If I met God on the edge of the desert, I would tell him I just want my friend to get well.

4 Comments

  • Snoop says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend but not sorry to have read the post. It’s late on this side of the world, way past my bedtime. Apologies for the seeming lack of care, but at least the ambivalence is honest. A better form of words is required but I hope you understand.

  • Anonymous says:

    i’m sorry about your friend, too. my younger brother had cancer a few years ago and it seemed as though all of the sudden someone had it everywhere i turned- my uncle, my grandmother, three neighbors. i could have really used a success story, so here’s yours- my brother made a full recovery and is the brilliant, vibrant kid he was before.

  • Anonymous says:

    I transported an old guy with diffuse neck and back pain to a specialist for examination. On the way there, I sat and chatted to him. Talked about this and that, just general small talk. Two hours later, the specialist sent him back and we took him back to the hospital. A week later, we were called to transport a guy across town for hospice care. I recognized the name. Same guy with the diffuse neck and back pain. He had totally changed. GCS of 15 one week to GCS of 4 the next. With traffic, it was a long drive. He was almost completely unresponsive except for purposeless motions and some moaning. His wife sat in back with me. She told me how he’d gotten liver cancer and how the chemo had to be discontinued because of complications. The neck and back pain was due to tumors all up and down his spine. The specialist found them on an MRI. At discharge from the hospital to hospice, I knew that no matter what anyone said, I’d be reading this guys obit in the paper. He about 12 hours after the transfer. It kind of made me sad, having met his wife, his kids, and seen all the grandchildren, sisters, sister in laws, cousins, and the like follow us to hospice. The wife was obviously tired. We talked about her husbands life, and what he liked to do, his past, how they met, and stuff like that. I was surprised she wasn’t more sad about it. I suppose having lived so long with it, and knowing what she did about his condition, that this didn’t come as a surprise. She seemed pretty accepting of things. Having all that family made me feel like he was cared for. His family drove in from all over to stay with him that last week. The whole clan travelled quite a ways. I always like when I see that. I wish everyone had families like that.

  • JJ says:

    I suffer from a lot of back pain due to a car accident when I was a child. When it happened I was in pain for a while but after I healed I had very little trouble until I was 15 and my muscles started to develop, I started getting a lot of lower back pain and have suffered with it ever since. That is until recently when I stumbled across memory foam mattresses. They adjust to the shape and weight of my body to support my back perfectly and let me sleep soundly. I can’t even imagine being able to sleep without my memory foam mattress anymore!

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